Bluehounds and Redhounds
the History of Greyhound and Trailways
Atlantic Greyhound Lines
© Copyright, 2009-10, Duncan Bryant Rushing.
The Atlantic Greyhound Lines (AGL), an intercity highway-coach carrier, was a Greyhound regional operating company, based in Charleston, West Virginia, USA. It ran from 1931 until -60, when it became merged with – not into but rather with – the Southeastern Greyhound Lines, (called also Southeastern, SEG, SEGL, or the SEG Lines), a neighboring company, thereby forming the Southern Division of The Greyhound Corporation (the parent Greyhound firm), known also as the Southern Greyhound Lines.
Midland Trail Transit Company
The story of the Atlantic Greyhound Lines (GL) starts with the Midland Trail Transit Company, which began in July 1924 under the leadership of Arthur Hill, formerly the secretary and treasurer of the Charleston Interurban Railroad Company. After buying two pre-existing carriers, the White Transportation Company and the Huntington-Charleston Motor Bus Company, it ran between Charleston and Huntington, both in West Virginia, along one segment of a road named as the Midland Trail, later designated as US highway 60 (US-60).
The Midland Trail firm continued to grow, mostly by buying more existing companies.
Blue and Gray Transit Company
Hill incorporated the Blue and Gray (B&G) Transit Company in Charleston, the capital of the Mountain State, in May 1927 – to buy his own Midland Trail concern and at least three other highway carriers, thereby increasing his route network – to make it easy and simple to consolidate all the permits and certificates of all the predecessor firms.
B&G continued to grow – through Portsmouth to Cincinnati and to Columbus, all three in Ohio, through Wheeling, West Virginia, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Lexington, Virginia, and to Clarksburg and to Bluefield, both in West Virginia.
Camel City Coach Company
Meanwhile, in December 1925 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the Camel City Coach Company (bearing a nickname of its hometown due to the Camel cigarettes made there) came into existence, under the leadership of a merchant by the name of John Gilmer, to run between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Martinsville, Virginia, via Winston-Salem, and to expand.
Soon Camel City grew, mostly by acquisition, first to the northwest to Mount Airy, North Carolina, then to the south to Columbia and to the southeast to Charleston, both in South Carolina, onward through Savannah, Georgia, to Jacksonville, Florida, through Augusta and Waycross, both in Georgia, to Jacksonville (along a route from Augusta to Jacksonville acquired in March 1931 from the Greyhound Lines of Georgia, a predecessor of the Southeastern GL), to the west through Boone, North Carolina, and then to the northwest to Abingdon, Virginia, to the north to Roanoke, Virginia, and to the east-northeast through Greensboro, North Carolina, and onward through Danville to Norfolk and to Richmond, all three in Virginia.
National Highway Transport Company
Hill and Gilmer together in December 1929 organized the National Highway Transport (NHT) Company, based in Charleston, West Virginia, to buy the capital stock of their own firms, the Blue and Gray and the Camel City concerns.
Genesis of Atlantic GL
Early in 1931 the NHT Company, which already had formed operating ties to Greyhound and had begun negotiations with the Dog, began using the brand name, trade name, or service name of the Atlantic Greyhound Lines (while at first retaining its own previous corporate name), then in July 1931 NHT became renamed as the Atlantic Greyhound Lines, with the consent of Greyhound, although the parent Greyhound firm had then acquired only a minority interest in NHT and not yet a controlling (majority) interest.
By September 1931 the Skyland Stages, running since 1930 between Columbia, South Carolina, and Knoxville, Tennessee, via Greenville, South Carolina, and Asheville, North Carolina, became a division of the Atlantic GL. [John Gilmer, of the Camel City Coach Company, in May 1929 had begun the process of forming the Skyland Stages (which ran through the small town of Skyland, North Carolina, between Asheville and Greenville), when he started the Asheville-Knoxville Coach Company.]
Old Dominion Stages
In 1929 three major players in the early highway-coach industry organized yet another carrier, based in Roanoke, Virginia, named as the Old Dominion (OD) Stages (using the nickname of the state or Commonwealth of Virginia). The founders were Arthur Hill (of the Blue and Gray Transit Company, of Charleston, West Virginia), John Gilmer (of the Camel City Coach Company, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina), and Guy Huguelet (of the Consolidated Coach Corporation, of Lexington, Kentucky, which in 1936 became renamed as the Southeastern Greyhound Lines). They owned the new firm in three equal shares. The purpose of the new firm was to run between Knoxville, Tennessee, and Washington, DC, via Bristol, Wytheville, Roanoke, Lexington, Staunton, and Winchester, all the last six in Virginia, along a route which divided between the territories of the Blue and Gray and the Camel City companies. Service began on the day before Thanksgiving Day in November 1929.
Late in 1932 Hill and Gilmer bought the one-third interest of Huguelet in the OD Stages, then they merged it into their Atlantic GL.
Tennessee Coach Company
In May 1932 the OD Stages leased its right to the route segment between Knoxville and Bristol (along US-11W via Rutledge, Bean Station, Rogersville, and Kingsport, all four in the Volunteer State) to the Tennessee Coach Company (TCC), which then was an independent regional carrier based in Knoxville, and which already ran between Knoxville and Bristol on its own route (along -11E via Jefferson City, Morristown, Greeneville, and Johnson City, all four in Tennessee).
The TCC thus ran the leased Old Dominion segment (between Knoxville and Bristol) along US-11W as well as its own original parallel route along -11E. It took part in through-schedules (interlined pool operations) – that is, the use of through-coaches on through-routes running through the territories of two or more operating companies – in cooperation with the Atlantic GL, the Dixie GL, and the Southeastern GL – including those between Birmingham, Alabama, and Bristol and between Memphis, Tennessee, and Washington. It did so until 1956, when the TCC joined the National Trailways association, and when the TCC returned its leased right to the OD route (along -11W) to the Atlantic GL (as the successor in interest of the OD Stages) – as a part of the deal related to the dissociation of the TCC from Greyhound.
Afterward the TCC continued running between Knoxville and Bristol, but only on its own original route along US-11E via Jefferson City, Morristown, and Greeneville.
John Gilmer and Others
John Gilmer, the founder of the Camel City Coach Company, took part also in a number of other activities during the early development of the highway-coach industry.
In 1928 Gilmer provided much of the funds used in a refinancing and reorganizing of the Eastern Carolina Coach Company (running between Charlotte and Wilmington, both in North Carolina), which, based in Charlotte, became renamed as the Queen City Coach Company. Sometime about 1939-43 the firm joined the National Trailways association (thus becoming known also as the Queen City Trailways), and in 1966 it became bought by the Transcontinental Bus System (the Continental Trailways). [However, Gilmer ended his involvement with the Queen City firm in 1933.]
In 1933 Gilmer, with several other principals of the Queen City Coach Company, joined in founding another concern, the Old South Lines, which started running between Charlotte and Atlanta, Georgia, and between Columbia, South Carolina, and Atlanta, and briefly onward beyond Atlanta to Montgomery, Alabama.
Gilmer's Old South Lines in 1934 bought the route between Atlanta and Montgomery (including an alternate loop through Columbus, Georgia), from the Hood Coach Lines. Hood had begun its first service on that route (from Atlanta to Columbus in 1930, then onward to Montgomery in 1933), and it had soon unsuccessfully tried to run additional routes in the Peach State.
Hood in November 1934 sold also the latter other routes – to the Consolidated Coach Corporation and the Union Bus Company, acting jointly – one route between Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, and one between Macon and Jacksonville, Florida, via Waycross, Georgia, both going to Consolidated (which in 1936 became renamed as the Southeastern Greyhound Lines) – plus a third route between Macon and Savannah, Georgia, going to Union (which in 1941 became bought by and merged into the SEGL). That provided to Consolidated and Union, and therefore later to Greyhound, not only a new route between Macon and Savannah and a parallel alternate route between Atlanta and Macon but also a quicker alternate route between Macon and Jacksonville (about 50 miles shorter than the older route via Valdosta, Georgia, and Lake City, Florida).
After that last sale the Hood firm, no longer holding any other route, went out of business.
In February 1936 the Teche GL bought the Old South route between Atlanta and Montgomery (with the loop through Columbus), completing its route between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Atlanta.
Gilmer also owned one or more automotive dealerships in Winston-Salem which sold Chrysler cars and GMC trucks.
The Capitol GL (CpGL or CapGL), based in Cincinnati, Ohio, came into existence in November 1930, as a joint venture (owned in two equal shares) of the Blue and Gray Transit Company and The Greyhound Corporation (with an uppercase T, because the word the was an integral part of the official name of the corporate entity). The purpose of the new firm was to operate a single new main line between Washington, DC, and Saint Louis, Missouri, via Winchester, Virginia, Clarksburg and Parkersburg, both in West Virginia, Chillicothe and Cincinnati, both in Ohio, Bedford and Vincennes, both in Indiana, and Olney and Salem, both in Illinois. It ran along US-50, a route shorter and six hours faster than the best alternate route then available. [The longer route ran via Baltimore in Maryland, Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Wheeling in West Virginia, Columbus in Ohio, Indianapolis and Terre Haute, both in Indiana, and Effingham in Illinois.] It ran also a branch line along US-150 between Shoals, Indiana, and Louisville, Kentucky, via Paoli, Indiana.
As described above, B&G, along with the Camel City firm, in 1929 became a part of the NHT Company, which in 1931 became renamed as the Atlantic Greyhound Lines.
In 1954 The Greyhound Corporation, the parent Greyhound firm, bought the 50-percent share of the Atlantic GL (which part had come from B&G) in the Capitol GL, then Greyhound merged the CapGL into the Pennsylvania GL.
Thus ended the Capitol GL.
In that same year, 1954, Greyhound merged also the old (second) Central GL into the Pennsylvania GL.
In the next year, 1955, in another round of consolidation, Greyhound merged the New England GL into the newly enlarged Pennsylvania GL, then redesignated the resulting combined unit as the Eastern Division of The Greyhound Corporation [known also as the new (second) Eastern GL], the first of four huge new divisions [along with Southern, Western, and Central, which last name became used again (in the fifth of six instances) but with a meaning quite different from its other applications]. [About the end of 1960 Greyhound merged also the Richmond GL into the new (second) Eastern GL.]
Atlantic GL as a Division
In 1936 The Greyhound Corporation accumulated a controlling (majority) interest in the Atlantic GL; in 1957 the parent firm finished buying the minority interest in the AGL, then merged the AGL into itself as a division.
The Atlantic GL eventually reached as far to the north as Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC, as far to the east as the Atlantic Ocean, as far to the south as Jacksonville, and as far to the west as Cincinnati, Knoxville, Atlanta, and Augusta.
The AGL also ran extensive local suburban commuter service, based in its hometown of Charleston and in Portsmouth in Ohio, Winston-Salem in North Carolina, Sumter in South Carolina, and [in conjunction with the Queen City Coach Company (the Queen City Trailways)] in the Queen City hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.
In 1960 the Atlantic GL met the new Eastern GL to the north, the new Central GL to the northwest, and the Southeastern GL to the west and the south; the AGL also met the Richmond GL in Washington, DC, and in Norfolk and Richmond, both in Virginia.
The AGL took part in a large number of major interlined north-south through-routes (using pooled equipment in cooperation with other Greyhound companies) – that is, the use of through-coaches on through-routes running through the territories of two or more Greyhound regional operating companies – between various pairs of cities (first between New York City and Jacksonville), including – in the north, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Boston, New York City, and Washington – and, in the south, Norfolk, Memphis, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, Saint Petersburg, and New Orleans.
Merger with Southeastern GL
In November 1960, in another major round of consolidation, Greyhound merged the Atlantic GL with – not into but rather with – the Southeastern GL, a neighboring company based in Lexington, Kentucky – thus forming the third of four huge new divisions – the Southern Division of The Greyhound Corporation, known also as the Southern GL – which reached as far to the north as Springfield and Effingham, both in Illinois, Columbus in Ohio, Pittsburgh, and Washington, as far to the east as the Atlantic Ocean, as far to the south as Miami and Key West, both in Florida, and as far to the west as Cincinnati, Saint Louis in Missouri, Memphis in Tennessee, Vicksburg and Natchez, both in Mississippi, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, both in Louisiana, and Lake Charles, also in Louisiana and on the way to Houston, the rest of Texas, and the rest of the West – from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico and into it.
Thus ended both the Atlantic GL and the Southeastern GL, and thus began the Southern GL.
Beyond Atlantic GL
Later, about 1969, The Greyhound Corporation reorganized again, into just two humongous divisions, named as the Greyhound Lines East (GLE) and the Greyhound Lines West (GLW); even later, about 1975, it eliminated those two divisions, thereby leaving a single gargantuan undivided nationwide fleet throughout the US.
When the Southern GL came into existence, in 1960, the headquarters functions became gradually transferred from Lexington, Kentucky, and Charleston, West Virginia, to Atlanta, Georgia; when the GLE arose, many of those administrative functions became shifted from Atlanta to Cleveland, Ohio; later yet those functions migrated to Chicago, Illinois, then to Phoenix, Arizona, when, in 1971, The Greyhound Corporation moved its home office from Chicago to a new building in Phoenix.
In 1987 The Greyhound Corporation, the original umbrella Greyhound firm, which had become widely diversified far beyond transportation, sold its entire highway-coach operating subsidiary [its core bus business, known as the (second) Greyhound Lines, Inc., the (second) GLI] to a new company, named as the GLI Holding Company, based in Dallas, Texas. The buyer was a separate, independent, unrelated firm which was the property of a group of private investors under the promotion of Fred Currey, a former executive of the Continental Trailways (later renamed as the Trailways, Inc., the TWI, also based in Dallas), which was by far the largest member company in the Trailways association (then named as the National Trailways Bus System, now named as the Trailways Transportation System).
Later in 1987 the GLI Holding Company, the new firm based in Dallas, further bought the Trailways, Inc., the TWI, its largest competitor, and merged it into the GLI.
The lenders and the other investors of the GLI Holding Company ousted Fred Currey as the chief executive officer (CEO) of the GLI after the latter firm in 1990 went into bankruptcy.
The GLI has since continued to experience difficulties and lackluster performance under a succession of new owners and new executives while continuing to reduce its level of service. The reductions consist of hauling fewer passengers aboard fewer coaches on fewer trips along fewer routes with fewer stops in fewer communities in fewer states, doing so on fewer days (that is, increasingly operating some trips fewer than seven days per week), and using fewer through-coaches, thus requiring passengers to make more transfers (from one coach to another).
After the sale of the GLI, The Greyhound Corporation, the original parent Greyhound firm, changed its name to the Greyhound-Dial Corporation, then the Dial Corporation, then the Viad Corporation. [The contrived name Viad appears to be a curious respelling of the former name Dial – if one scrambles the letters D, I, and A, then turns the V upside down and regards it as the Greek letter lambda – Λ – that is, the Greek equivalent of the Roman or Latin letter L.]
The website of the Viad Corporation in January 2010 makes no mention of its corporate history or its past relationship to Greyhound – that is, its origin as The Greyhound Corporation – as though to ignore or dismiss Greyhound or to escape from it. [The GES Exposition Services, Inc., a subsidiary of the Viad Corporation, began in the 1960s as the Greyhound Exposition Services (GES).]
The Atlantic GL made a major, significant, and lasting contribution to the present Greyhound route network.
Please see also any one or more of the articles (by clicking on any one or more of the links) listed in the navigational bar in the upper left part of this page.
Jackson, Carlton, Hounds of the Road. Dubuque: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, 1984. ISBN 0-87972-207-3.
Meier, Albert, and John Hoschek, Over the Road. Upper Montclair: Motor Bus Society, 1975. No ISBN (due to age of book).
Schisgall, Oscar, The Greyhound Story. Chicago: J.G. Ferguson Publishing Company, 1985. ISBN 0-385-19690-3.
Motor Coach Age (a publication of the Motor Bus Society), various issues, especially these:
Backfire, the corporate newspaper for the Southeastern Greyhound Lines, all issues, from January 1938 through February 1956.
Jon's Trailways History Corner, a web-based history of Trailways by Jan Hobijn (known also as Jon Hobein).
Schedules and historical data at the website of the present Greyhound Lines.
If you're willing to sign my guestbook, please click here.
© Copyright, 2009-10, Duncan Bryant Rushing.